The first time I heard about homeschooling, I was spouseless, childless, and clueless about everything that I am now presumed to be an expert on. Fast forward the entire Matrix trilogy, 2 installments of Guardians of the Galaxy, all of the Harry Potter films, and this is where I now find myself - “A family of 8 and homeschooling?! You are amazing and your kids are great.” Other moms often confide in me that they don't think they could do it. The brave ones ask for advice on how to get started and the curious ones ask what my typical day looks like. The one thing they all have in common is the false idea that I am a perfect wife, mother, and teacher and that my children are excellent in just about every way (grades, talents, behavior, manners, etc.) The truth is, I am an excellent wife, teacher, and mother SOMETIMES. We all have our great days. Other times, my epic parenting fails, wifely misses, and teaching stumbles are embarrassing and I chalk them up as growth and learning opportunities (I’ll share them with you at a later date).
My kids are not perfect. Their mom is not perfect. My schedule is not even close to being perfect. And yet, as a homeschooling mom, I feel that if I open my mouth and confess that it’s crazy hard sometimes and I don’t know if I’m doing it right, I will let people down. Did I just let you down by saying that?
So here I am, dropping the veil on myself and my fellow homeschool hotties, on the quiet realities we homeschool moms often suffer alone. The list was supposed to be longer but my schedule’s kinda wonky as my kids recover from the flu so here goes...
7 UGLY TRUTHS ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING THAT HOMESCHOOLING MOMS NEVER TALK ABOUT
1. You secretly regret your decision to homeschool. Year one of homeschooling is the honeymoon phase and you feel like you’re changing the world, one precious heart at a time. You are totally in love with spending time with your child/children and enjoying the freedoms and independence of being your own ‘school’, choosing curriculum, projects, co-ops, activities, etc. - the world is your oyster. Everything is new, beautiful and exciting and the sky is the limit! Then year 3 hits and you have to make greater efforts to stave off stale routines and repeat visits to local spots lose their appeal. Maybe you have a new little one or two and they haven’t gotten the memo to respect the delicate science experiments and to not pull all the alphabetized books off the shelves during power reading hour. You don’t remember the last time you had a minute to yourself and self-care is a forgotten concept to you. You feel like you’ve lost your homeschool mojo and in your weaker moments, the grass starts looking greener at your local public school playground. I have had hard days and been overwhelmed and in those moments, I doubted myself and my choices. But by the end of each day, I remember why I do what I do and that the advantages and benefits far outweigh the most challenging times.
2. You are alienated from family members or friends. Beware. Extended family members and friends who have little to no experience with homeschooling can sometimes be the biggest opponents throughout your homeschooling journey. They warn against it because they fear your kids will never make friends or they’ll turn out weird. If you’ve read my previous posts, you know my views on both of those issues. Homeschool kids can indeed enjoy close friendships, just as some public school kids can be surrounded by thousands of other children and yet feel totally and utterly alone.
3. Homeschooling is hurting your marriage. Homeschooling and managing a household is a huge undertaking and the un-ending responsibilities can easily hurt your connection with your spouse, if you let it. The to-do lists grow ever longer and the ever-increasing new opportunities out there for homeschoolers: enrichment activities, college courses, co-ops, field trips, etc. can keep you and the kids so busy that you can actually schedule yourselves out of the home and away from your spouse every single day of the week, including weekends. Making clear boundaries, syncing calendars, and prioritizing each other can go a long way in keeping the marriage happy and romantic rather than a chore gathering dust at the bottom of your to-do list.
4. You find homeschooling personally unsatisfying. I have intensely busy days, every day. But sometimes they are unfulfilling and I miss the glamor and excitement of working an exec job, on Madison Avenue, wearing expensive dry clean clothes, and interacting with smart and eclectic New York clients. My awesome kids range in age from 18 months to 15 years old. In a day, I may cover making lap-folders, finger painting, skip-counting, phonics, math drills, flashcards, on-line science, U.S. history, physics, Japanese, nursery rhymes, literature, and grammar. Then the homemaker in me is texting the husband, shopping, doing dishes, preparing meals, cleaning, folding laundry, making appointments, fixing something, and checking up on my own mom to see how she’s doing. Then later in the evening, the mommy nurse in me is making the nearly empty Neosporin tube cry uncle as I squeeze out the dregs (in my attempt to avoid a Target run at 10 PM) to cover another boo-boo, running baths, reading stories, breaking up fights, soothing hurts, designating chores, etc. Raising a family and homeschooling are not glamorous but the time spent with the kids in those early years is priceless and the personal passions that they discover and the strides that they make towards EVERYTHING is a wonder to see and a privelege to be a part of.
5. You feel like you’re losing yourself. When I threw myself into homeschooling, I found myself giving up all of my hobbies, not pursuing other personal goals, barely seeing my girlfriends, and even neglecting to take care of myself. It was all about the kids and homeschooling for a long time. I was exhausted, depressed and angry with myself and I wasn’t sure why. It was because I had lost myself in my quest to homeschool. I mistakenly thought I had to stop being 'me' and start being a 'proper' homeschooling mom. But I discovered that just being myself and homeschooling along the way is the best way to build a good life for myself and for my family. Don’t try to be the enviably perfect homeschool mom. Be the uniquely awesome you and make homeschooling one of the fantastic things you do, not the only thing you do. It’s a much healthier and happier approach.
6. Okay, this is what’s up - I know this post is titled 7 Ugly Truths but I could only come up with 5 because honestly, homeschooling is a pretty sweet gig and we homeschool mamas aren’t all that dark!
7. What’s one ugly truth about homeschooling that I missed? Fill in here: __________________________________
P.S. In case you’re wondering how a homeschool mom of 6 finds the time to blog - Right now, I am sitting at my messy kitchen table, feverishly typing out this post. My kids are loudly playing a game of dodgeball (yes, you read that correctly, "dodgeball") with the baby gleefully refereeing. And of course, this is all happening in my living room…